Academic redshirting: a path to success?

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WICHITA, Kan. On Tuesday May 2nd, the Wichita School District will host it's Kindergarten Roundup. It's a chance for parents to learn more about the school, the teachers and the expectations for their child.

For some parents they're trying to decide whether to enroll their child now or wait one more year even though they are ready. Some call it academic redshirting.

Academic redshirting is when you hold back a child from entering kindergarten if their birthday is close to the deadline. In Kansas, that's usually birthdays in June, July and August.

While this has been going on for awhile, there are still parents who are just learning about it and wonder if it's the right decision for their child.

With such a big decision, wouldn't it be nice if we could know the end from the beginning? Have a recipe for our children and know, every time, that if we followed it our kids would turn out perfect.

Unfortunately life is not that simple. So when you get to major milestones in your child's life it can be difficult to know which way to go.

"That was one of the hardest decisions we've had to make, up to this point, was deciding to send [my daughter Shae] to kindergarten or not," said Jen Shrader.

The problem for Schrader was not about her daughter's ability to do well in school, it was about her age.

In Kansas, you can start kindergarten as long as you are five years old by August 31st.

Shae Schrader's birthday is August 28th.

Because she would be so young compared to her peers, Schrader decided when her daughter was born that she would delay sending her to kindergarten.

"Then as the time approached, it became a harder decision because she was actually ready for kindergarten," said Schrader.

That's where Scotty and Cassie Williams are. Their daughter Kate is three with an August 3rd birthday.

"We've talked about this some and we haven't made a final decision yet," said Scotty.

They talk about being the oldest versus the youngest in your grade.

"One of the things that I think about would be the maturity level, emotional progression, intellect and overall confidence," said Scotty.

Cassie said, "The biggest thing I want, is to feel that my daughter can succeed and feel confident with her education and that she can go in and feel no pressure, that she's lacking behind."

Apollo Elementary Principal Scott May says he regularly gets these types of questions.

"I would strongly urge parents to talk to their school principal, talk to school counselors or educational psychologists that work within your child's school because they really know research, they know best practices for kids," said May.

When it comes to academic redshirting, May says his district does not push parents either way. At the same time, he's a proponent of kids going to school when they're ready, even if they would be the youngest in their grade.

"You should be consulting with the professionals, but to redshirt or hold the child, to not start a child in kindergarten when they're age ready for athletic type of reasons, or because they want the child to be the oldest in the class, I would really delve into that and make sure that they're making the correct decision," said May.

And there's the rub for parents, knowing if the decision to enroll their child now or delay it another year will be good in the long run.

Remember Schrader's daughter Shae born in August?

She's now a junior at Goddard High School.

On Friday, in part two of our series, we talk to her and others to get their perspectives and ask them, if you had to make the choice again would you?